(1) Rights of Parents (and Duties of children)
Islam recognises family as a basic social unit. Along with the husband-wife relationship the Parent-child relationship is the most important one. To maintain any social relationship both parties must have some clear-cut Rights as well as obligations. The relationships are reciprocal. Duties of one side are the Rights of the other side. So in Parent-child relationship the Rights of parents are the obligations (duties) of the children and vice versa, the Rights of children are obligations (duties) of parents. Islam clearly defines the Rights of Parents (which mean duties of children) and obligations of parents (which means Rights of children).
It is clear that after Allah parents are the persons who give us innumerable favors. They provide protection, food and clothing to the newly born. The mother sacrifices her comforts and sleep to provide comfort to her children. The father works hard to provide for their physical, educational and psychological (and spiritual) needs. It is a matter of common courtesy that if a person does you some favor you feel obliged to him. Verbally you say ‘thank you’ to him. You try to repay and compensate him for his gifts and favors. You feel a sense of gratitude towards him. So it is with Allah and with parents. Allah’s favors cannot be counted or repaid except by thanking Him and obeying His orders. After Allah our parents deserve our thanks and obedience for the favors they had done us. That’s why Quran lays stress on feeling grateful to parents, and doing good to them. “And your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none save Him and shall do your parents a good turn.” What does a ‘good turn’ mean? It includes obeying them, speaking softly, avoiding harsh words or harsh tone, giving them company when they are lonely, caring for their physical and psychological needs (especially in their old age), and praying to Allah that He may bless them and have mercy on them.
As between parents the mother has more rights than the father. The reason is apparent. Mother has borne the child’s burden during pregnancy, has undergone birth pains in delivering the baby, has sacrificed her own comforts to provide comfort to her children, has looked after them and felt worried for their well-being. That is why mother deserves our good treatment more than the father. A Tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) tells us that a Companion asked the Prophet, “ Who deserves my good treatment most?” “Your mother”, said the Prophet. “Who next?” “Your mother”. “Who next?” “Your mother”. “Who after that?” “Your father”. This means that the mother deserves three times more good treatment from her children than the father deserves. Another Tradition wants us to extend kind treatment to close relations on the mother’s side also (even to her friends). A famous Hadith (Tradition) says, “Paradise lies under the feet of the mother”. This means doing good to our mother lead us to Paradise.
As to the reward for doing good to our parents a Hadith mentions the following story: “Three persons of ancient days were once travelling in a mountaneous region. The rain, thunder and lightning made them take refuge in a cave. Mudslide made a stone block the opening to the cave. The persons were entrapped inside. When the storm stopped they tried to push back the heavy stone to get out of the cave but they could not. They wondered ‘what to do now’. At last seeing that their joint efforts also cannot move the stone they decided to pray to Allah sincerely. One of them suggested, ‘each one of us should relate one good thing he has done in his life and beg Allah to move the stone. One said, “One night my old mother asked me to bring a cup of milk for her. During the time I milched the goat and brought it to her she had gone to sleep. I did not think it proper to disturb her. So I stood by her bedside for the whole night till she got up in the morning and then I offered her the cup of milk. O God, if this act of mine was approved by You please shift this stone.” The stone slipped a little but not enough to let them get out. Similarly, the second and the third man mentioned an act of goodness and prayed to God to shift the stone. The stone slipped down and the entry to the cave opened up. So the men got out. This story shows how service to one’s parents leads to blessings from God and rescue from troubles. Now let us summarize the Rights of Parents (Duties of children):
(1) Right to be respected and obeyed:
Parents have a right to be respected and obeyed by children. All parents are well wishers of children. They issue orders and instructions that are in the best interest of children (though children might think ottherwise). So it is the duty of children to obey their orders and act accordingly. Some children listen to parental orders but do not act upon these or show laziness in carrying out these orders. This causes annoyance to parents. Children should remember that annoying one’s parents can lead to God’s wrath.
(2) Right to scold and rebuke:
It is instinctive obligation of parents to protect their children from physical and moral harm. If a small child puts its hand in fire it is natural urge for you to push the child back, even if the child does not want. It is in child’s interest. So it is with parents. They are duty bound to protect their children in every way, physical, intellectual, moral. If the children have a temptation to do an act that is not in their long-term interest it is the duty of the parents to keep them back from that act or behavior. To this end they may resort to advice, rebuke, scolding, even hitting them. Good children should take all this ‘harshness’ in their own interest. If parents scold them they should bear it calmly. No rude replies, no arguing, no explanations, no comments unless asked for. Parental advice should be listened to and acted upon, even if against children’s own wishes.
(3) Right to be looked after.
Parents have looked after the children for decades. So it is the duty of grown-up children to repay them by way of caring for them and looking to their physical and financial needs. A Quranic verse says: “People ask you (O Prophet) how should they spend. Say, ‘whatever you spend should be spent on Allah (in good cause), on parents, near relatives, on orphans, destitutes and travelers (who fall short of money in foreign lands)”.
(4) Right to be helped:
As parents grow old their energies also decline. So it is the duty of children to help their parents in any household chore in which they can help. Sons can help in lifting heavy things, cleaning home, arranging things etc. Daughters can help in mother’s household work—cooking, washing, cleaning, serving food etc. With good children such help should come automatically, not when asked for. Whenever you see your mother or father doing something extend a helping hand to her/him without their asking. This is what Islam expects from children.
(5) Right to kind words/good behaviour:
Quran urges children to be soft-spoken towards parents and show respect and kindness in their behavior towards parents.
Unforunate as it is, the Western societies have forgotten these lessons. Young children are rude towards parents and show disobedience. As the parents grow old they drive them out from their homes and put them in “Senior Citizens Homes”. Grown up children cannot spare time to attend to the needs of old parents. The busy Western life has led to a break-up of the family unit (so much upheld in Islam). As Muslims we expect our children to adhere to Islamic values and show respect, obedience, kindness, leniency and care towards parents, especially in their old age. Children must not forget the favors and sacrifices of their parents. As good mannered persons they must feel and remain obliged towards parents and try to repay them by kind words and deeds, even with money and material needs. These are the Rights of Parents due from their children (or the Duties of Children towards parents). These Rights and obligations are not found in Islam only. Such values are to be found in all true religions. Quran mentions Hazrat Yahya (John the Baptist) as “kind towards his parents, not tough and disobedient”. Similarly Hazrat Isa (Jesus) is quoted saying to his people, “God made me kind towards my mother (Mary) and did not make me tough and disobedient”. Hazrat Yousuf (Joseph), as a royal Minister in Egypt, called his old, poor parents from their far off home and offered them seats on a high platform (he did not feel shy of behaving in a kind manner to poor parents in the presence of his officials).
(2) Rights of Children
Now let us see the other side of the coin. We have mentioned that Parent-child relation is a reciprocal one. The Rights of Parents (discussed above) are the Duties of children. Now let us see what are the Rights of Children (and Duties of Parents) in Islam. These can be summarized as under:
(1) Children have the right to be fed, clothed and protected till they grow up to adulhood. It is, primarily, the duty of the father to do that. Mother can provide help if necessary. Protection means protection against physical as well as moral and intellectual harm. Parents are duty bound to see that the child’s personality develops in all fields. So if the parents have to resort to strictness for the sake of disciplining the children and protecting them from intellectually, morally and religiously undesirable behaviour, children should not resent their strictness. Let them perform their duty as parents. Children’s duty is not to protest or be rude but to listen and obey. “Their’s not to question why; their’s but to do and die”.
(2) Right to education.
In Islam education is not limited to bookish knowledge but includes moral and religious training also. It means healthy all-round growth of child’s personality. Parents must not only provide for children’s education in schools and colleges but should also take personal interest in their studies, helping them if they can. This gives children a feeling of ‘working with the parents’ and encourages them in studies. Parents should sacrifice their own comfort and social activities and must spare some time to take interest in children’s studies, especially when they are young. Leaving children to the mercy of teachers or tutors is not a wise policy. And of course, parents should not forget or neglect imparting religious/moral training to children. A little sacrifice on part of parents will save children from moral disasters. Effective moral training comes not from sermons, advice and precepts but from parents’ personal examples of good behaviour. It is a famous Tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) that acquisition of knowledge is a must for every Muslim boy and girl. Another Hadith says, “The best of you is one who gives a good education (intellectual and moral) to his children”. Another Hadith lays stress on education of daughters. The Prophet (PBUH) once said, “He who provides good upbringing to 3 daughters shall go to Paradise”. A man asked, “what if one has only two daughters”. “He also shall go to Paradise”. Another man asked, “and what if one has only one daughter?” “He too”, replied the Prophet (PBUH).
(3) Right to love and affection:
Children have many psychological needs also. Small children need to be loved, caressed, kissed and hugged. The Prophet loved children greatly. He would allow his grandsons Hassan and Hussain (R.A) to ride his shoulders even during his prayers. In streets he would offer ‘salaam’ to children, play and cut jokes with them. Sometimes he would even kiss small children in the street. Once a Bedouin saw the Prophet kissing a small kid. Out of wonder he said, “I have eight children but I never kiss them”. The Prophet remarked, “What can I do if Allah has taken away love and compassion from your heart”. The Prophet would show special kindness to orphaned children. Some parents believe that being frank with children is not good from discipline point of view. This is wrong. Love and leniency can do much that fear and strictness cannot do. If leniency leads to rudeness on the part of children it should be mixed with strictness. That will tell the children that parents are basically kind but can be tough if children show rudeness and bad manners. Over-protection and over-care are undesirable. Let the child grow up as a responsible person. Only provide them guidance.
(4) Right to be well provided (materially)
A Hadith says, “It is better for parents to leave their children well provided (financially) than to leave them in poverty”. This means that parents should not spend all that they have on their own comforts and luxuries but must make provisions for children’s welfare after the parents die. These are brief outlines of the Rights and Duties of both parties in the Parent-child relationship. If the parents and children act according to these guidelines they can make the family environment most conducive to peace and satisfaction for the parents and healthy personality growth for children.
Children, according to Islam, are entitled to various rights. The first and foremost of these rights is the right to be properly brought up, raised and educated. This means that children should be given suitable, sufficient, sound and adequate religious, ethical and moral guidance to last them for their entire lives. They should be engraved with true values, the meaning of right and wrong, true and false, correct and incorrect, appropriate and inappropriate and so forth and so on. Allah, the Almighty stated in the Glorious Qur’an:
"O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones." (66:6)
Allah’s Apostle, PBUH also said: "Every one of you (people) is a shepherd. And every one is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them." This Hadith is reported by both Bukhari and Muslim.
Children, therefore are a trust given to the parents. Parents will be responsible for this trust on the Day of Judgement. Parents are essentially responsible for the moral, ethical and the basic and essential religious teachings of their children.
If parents fulfill this responsibility, they will be free of the consequences on the Day of Judgement. The children will become better citizens and a pleasure to the eyes of their parents, first in this life, and in the hereafter.
Allah, the Almighty stated in the Glorious Quran:
"And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds." (52:21)
Moreover, Allah's Apostle, PBUH said: "Upon death, man's deeds will (definitely) stop except for three deeds, namely: a continuous charitable fund, endowment or goodwill; knowledge left for people to benefit from; and pious righteous and God-fearing child who continuously prays Allah, the Almighty, for the soul of his parents." This Hadith is reported by Muslim.
In fact, such a statement reflects the value of the proper upbringing of children. It has an everlasting effect, even after death.
Unfortunately, many parents from every walk of life, in every society, regardless of creed, origin, social and economical status, etc., have neglected this very important imposed right of their own children on them. Such individuals have indeed lost their children as a result of their own negligence. Such parents are so careless about the time their children spend with no benefit, the friends they associate with, the places they go to, etc. Such parents do not care, are totally indifferent about where their children go, when they come back and so forth and so on, causing the children to grow up without any responsible adult and without caring supervision. Such parents neglect even to instruct, direct or guide their children to the proper way of life, behaviour or even right attitudes towards others. Yet, you may find these parents are so careful about guarding their wealth. They are extremely concerned about their businesses, work and otherwise. They exert every possible effort to lead a very successful life in terms of materialistic gains, although all this wealth is not actually theirs. No one will take wealth to the grave.
Children are not only to be well-fed, well-groomed, properly dressed for the weather and for appearance, well-taken care of in terms of housing and utilities. It is more important to offer the child comparable care in terms of educational, religious training, and spiritual guidance. The heart of a child must be filled with faith. A child’s mind must be entertained with proper guidance, knowledge and wisdom. Clothes, food, housing, schooling are not, by any means, an indication of proper care of the child. Proper education and guidance is far more important to a child than this food, grooming and appearance.
One of the due rights of children upon their parents is their spending for their welfare and well-being moderately. Over-spending or negligence is not condoned, accepted or even tolerated in Islam. Such ways will have a negative effect on the child regardless of the social status. Men are urged not to be miserly to their children and households, who are their natural heirs in every religion and society. Why would one be miserly to those who are going to inherit his wealth? Children are entitled to such an important right. They are even permitted to take moderately from their parent's wealth to sustain themselves if the parent declines to give them proper funds for their living.
Children also have the right to be treated equally in terms of financial gifts. No one should be preferred over the others. All must be treated fairly and equally. None should be deprived his gift from the parents. Depriving, or banning the right of inheritance, or other financial gifts during the lifetime of the parents or the preference of a parent for one child over the other is considered according to Islam as an act of injustice. Injustice will definitely lead to an atmosphere of hatred, anger and dismay amongst the children in a household. In fact, such an act of injustice may, most likely, lead to animosity amongst the children, and consequently, this will affect the entire family environment. In certain cases a special child may show a tender care for his aging parent, for instance, causing the parent to grant such a child a special gift, or issue him the ownership of a house, a factory, a land, a farm, a car, or any other valuable items. Islam, however considers such a financial reward to such a caring, loving and perhaps obedient child, a wrong act. A caring child is entitled only to a reward from Allah, the Almighty. Although it is nice to grant such a child something in appreciation for his dedication and special efforts, this must not lead to an act of disobedience to Allah, the Almighty. It may be that the heart and feelings of such a loving and caring child may change, at one point in time, causing him to become a nasty and harmful child. By the same token, a nasty child may change, at any given time, as well, to become a very caring and kind child to the same parent. The hearts and feelings are, as we all know, in the hands of Allah, the Almighty, and can be turned in any direction at any given time and without any previous notice. This, indeed, is one of the reasons for preventing the act of financial preference of a child over another. On the other hand, there is also no assurance or guarantee that a caring child can handle the financial gift of his parent wisely.
It is narrated by Abu Bakr, RAA, who said that Allah's Apostle, PBUH, was approached by one of his companions, al-N'uman bin Basheer, who said: "O Prophet of Allah! I have granted a servant to one of my children (asking him to testify to that gift)." But Allah's PBUH asked him: "Did you grant the same to each and every child of yours?" When Allah's Apostle, PBUH was informed negatively about that, he said: "Fear Allah, the Almighty, and be fair and just to all your children. Seek the testimony of another person, other than me. I will not testify to an act of injustice." This Hadith is reported by both Bukhari and Muslim. Thus, Allah's Apostle, PBUH called such an act of preference of one child over the others an act of "injustice." Injustice is prohibited and forbidden in Islam.
But, if a parent granted one of his children financial help to fulfill a necessity, such as a medical treatment coverage, the cost of a marriage, the cost of initializing a business, etc., then such a grant would not be categorized an act of injustice and unfairness. Such a gift will fall under the right to spend in the essential needs of the children, which is a requirement that a parent must fulfill.
Islam sees that if parents fulfill their duties towards all their children in terms of providing them with necessary training, educational backing, moral, ethical and religious education, this will definitely lead to a more caring child, a better family atmosphere and a better social environment and awareness. On the other hand, any negligence in those parental duties can lead to the loss of a child or ill treatment of the parents at a later age.
May Allah bless us all. AMEN.